November 3, 2009

Un elefante se balanceaba sobre la tela de una araña...

One elephant went out to play
Upon a spider's web one day
He had such enormous fun
He asked another elephant to come...

We sing this song with the kiddos all the time. It's a bright and shiny English translation of an old Spanish children's song. The Spanish was a little less playful, a little more grim. Less playing and fun, more balancing and testing of limits. Spanish lyrics with my very literate English translation follows:

Un elefante se balanceaba (One elephant balanced himself)
Sobre la tela de una araña (On a spider's web)
Cuando veía que resistía (When he saw that it held up)
Fue a llamar a otro elefante (He went and called another elephant)

It's a counting song, really. Nancy had me make a big spiderweb on posterboard and little dancing elephants to velcro onto it and we sing the song, adding another elephant in each verse. Enormous fun. We can get 10 elephants on that spiderweb.

Really, though, I think the Spanish version is more true to life. In a way, we're all elephants balancing on spiderwebs... big, blundering, oafish creatures precariously balancing ourselves on skinny little spiderwebs that we like to call "lives". And we bounce and bobble around for a little while, checking things out, and if the spiderweb doesn't break we call in another elephant. Then we usually breed with that elephant, producing smaller elephants who grow up to be big elephants, all straining on that poor spiderweb...

Good thing that spiderweb has a higher tensile strength than steel (supposing steel could be extruded to that same diameter), huh?

But where the heck is the spider who made that web in the first place? And how does she feel about all those elephants dancing around on her web? (I say "her web" because in most species only the female spiders spin webs. It is not intended to be a commentary on the gender of God or anything... don't go reading too much into this, people!)

But here again we have an example of the English language taking a children's song that is a little dodgy at best and cleaning it up and making it happy... disgusting, I say. Kind of like how American children have no idea that at the end of the original version of Snow White, the wicked queen is forced to wear shoes made of red-hot iron and dance in them until she falls down dead. (I think the idea of such punishment might deter crime a little better than our current "justice" system, but that's another blog for another time.) Plenty of those happy "fairy tales" (whether or not they involved fairies, they still seem to get called that) were actually a lot more gruesome in their original tongues until English came along and cleaned them up all sparkly-like.

Stupid English.

Anyway, I've had that silly song in my head most of the day because right around the time I woke up this morning (not the time I got out of bed, but the time I woke up) I was discussing the song with Lorena and Nancy, because I couldn't remember how the Spanish one went since it's been well over a year since I taught first grade reading at MES. On the plus side, I think I can probably play the thing on guitar provided that the A7 chord is not too difficult. Because the only other chord in the song is D, and I'm all over D.

Speaking of Ivan, I think I'm off to have a little bonding session with him.

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